When I was at school, my friends and I would call periods “lemons”. Don’t ask me why as I really don’t remember. We would simply tell each other we were “on our lemons” and that’s all that needed to be said. It became this weird sort of secret amongst my friendship group. Maybe it’s because they made us sour af? Who knows.
The most bizarre thing is that we went to an all-girls school. Exactly the sort of place that you would think that students could speak freely about periods. They should have had sanitary products in all the bathrooms, and we should have been discussing our periods as openly as discussing who was voted out on Pop Idol.
So why didn’t we?
I’m not sure I know the answer to this. I think as I was growing up we were really only just getting the beginnings of social media (oh hi, Myspace), and we were out getting drunk in parks instead of engaging with content online. We didn’t discuss periods because they weren’t being discussed anywhere else. Even by our teachers, or our parents.
We wouldn’t share insights into tampons vs pads, or discuss the different “symptoms” of our menstrual cycle. We’d quietly get on with it and indirectly acknowledge if someone was particularly on edge…oh, must be their lemons.
I’m very lucky to have parents that always let me go to them with questions about things. I’m not sure they would have answered all of them, but it meant that I had the choice rather than education being thrust upon me. I do feel though that our school could have done better. Biology class was a chance for a natter with the backdrop of the reproductive system, explained in dull detail for the sake of passing an exam.
Growing up, my period was something I dealt with privately. To some degree IRL, it still is. I don’t go proclaiming to everyone I meet that it’s “that time of the month”, but I am starting to be that bit more open about it online and among those around me who may feel my wrath for one week every month (soz Liam).
I think another reason I’ve been straight up prudish about periods is that I’ve never had a lot of female friends. My last experience having a group of females around me was at high school when it seems we were all a bit too immature to really go into it.
This is starting to change in adult life, so the conversation is naturally more likely to come up. Being in a long term relationship also helps, because Liam knows exactly when I’m due on because I am RAGING for a few days before. Ah, PMS you sly, sly bitch.
So why is it that I’m now tweeting about my period aptly wreaking havoc on International Women’s Day, or sharing screengrabs on my Instagram story of texts with my mum about how she calls periods “o be joyfuls”?
First and foremost, at the tender age of 29 I feel that I really should be talking about and normalising periods by now. I’m way too late to the period party. I’m embarrassed that it’s taken me this long, tbh. I also see some of my favourite creators online sharing their experiences – from hormonal acne to dreaded stomach cramps. In the circles I operate in online, it feels more normal to talk about it than not to. Which is ~awesome~.
I also figure that the more us women go out there and talk about our periods, the more understanding there is as a whole of how we experience them differently. Mine can change from month to month, with one that’s barely noticeable but the next is hell on earth. Reading and learning about other’s experiences can make us feel more comfortable with our own, knowing that it’s normal and natural what we are going through.
There’s also the issue of period poverty – something that has clearly been going on way longer than I’ve been aware of it. I come from a place of such privilege that my reaction to the existence of period poverty was “surely, this can’t be happening?”. But it is, and it sucks. Without the more open dialogue that people are having online now, I would perhaps still be in a place of ignorance on the issue. It’s not just happening in third world countries, it’s happening in our own communities.
When it comes to periods, I’ll admit I draw the line at that article about a woman smearing her period blood all over her face because it’s “beautiful”.
No luv. Periods aren’t beautiful, they are pretty awful a lot of the time and whenever my pill packet is almost empty, I curse towards the sky with anguish that it’s almost time to feel bloated 24/7 and crave a diet entirely made up of chocolate.
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